KINGSTON — Dean wanted felines. “Two kitties, please,” he politely requested, while Raymond asked for a puppy.
And Pat Ward, with a dapper gray handlebar moustache and without his usual motley garb (“I thought the clown suit might scare some of the kids”) did his best to comply, pulling thin balloons from a back pocket, inflating and twisting them into hats, dogs, cats and swords.
It was annual Field Day for special-education students in Kingston on Thursday, and if grins, thumbs up and high fives were the measures of school success, Wyoming Valley West Stadium became the epicenter of achievement for a few hours despite the threat of rain.
The Greater Nanticoke Area students — teachers asked last names not be used — clamored around Ward right after LIU Assistant Executive Director Greg Koons had launched the festivities with a traditional “Let the games begin!”
Executive Director Anthony Grieco said the event was held despite the risk of rain for a simple reason: “With more than 500 kids coming by busloads, we can’t set a rain date.”
So they paraded onto the field to the tune of rock band Queen’s “We are the Champions,” some holding hand-made banners touting their class and teacher: “Ms. Alison’s class has the best teachers and the best students,” “There’s a minion reasons to be happy,” “Best class around hands down, Mrs. Moska’s life skills.”
Yes, the artificial turf was a tad damp, and the gravel track a bit mucky — as they paraded out, Grieco periodically rushed to assist with wheelchairs getting stuck in one particularly soggy spot.
But the rain had stopped and the sun even tried to peak out as they set up races, karaoke, food stands and many other activities the students could enjoy for as long as the precipitation stayed at bay.
“We’ve held it on rainy days before,” Grieco said. “We get the kids in wheelchairs into the shelter under the stadium if it starts to lightning, and everyone else goes to our building,” he added, nodding to the LIU center across Tioga Street.
The event draws sponsorship from area businesses as well as scores of parents and volunteers, many smiling as widely as the students.
“We always say this is the best day of the year,” Grieco beamed.